Among urges EA Parliaments to be more transparent and accountable

Speaker of Parliament Anita Among speaks to the media recently. PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA 

What you need to know:

  • The Speaker made the remarks during the opening of the two-day East African Regional Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations conference at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala on Thursday

The Speaker of Parliament Annet Anita Among has urged Parliaments under the African Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations Network (APMON) to exercise openness, transparency, accountability and adequate citizen engagement to realise democratic governance.

Speaker Among also noted that there is a need for greater collaboration between Parliamentary Monitoring Organizations (PMOs) and Parliaments in pursuit of increased openness and constructive engagement. 

“This conference is a recognition that effective monitoring of legislative performance is a vital precondition for further evolution and improvement of Parliaments. In this digital age where technology permeates every aspect of our lives, parliamentary monitoring organisations are presented with an opportunity for relatively easier access to and dissemination of information. Digital technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to enhance parliamentary monitoring efforts, from improving access to information to fostering greater citizen participation in governance processes,” she said.

The Speaker made the remarks during the opening of the two-day East African Regional Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations conference at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala on Thursday. She was represented by the government Chief Whip Denis Obua.

Organised under the theme 'digital technology and parliamentary monitoring; reimagining futures and possibilities', the second East African Regional Conference for Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations brings together dedicated organisations and individuals actively involved in monitoring parliaments and promoting transparency, accountability, and good governance across the East African region and Africa at large.

Ms Caroline Gaito, the Executive Director of Mzalendo Trust in Kenya, emphasised how technology has become critical at both national and subnational levels in ensuring openness in government procurements, citizens accessing government services and how citizens engage with their Parliament and representatives.

“Parliament monitoring organisations need to think of ways to stay ahead of the curve while monitoring Parliaments to harness the power of technology to hold them accountable. In the same breadth, they are challenged to brainstorm on ways they can address emerging challenges that come with the use of technology such as misinformation and disinformation that threaten to derail working democracies in the continent,” she said.

Mr Timothy Chemonges, the Associate Director at the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA), urged the parliament monitoring forums to not only seize the opportunities the conference presents but also explore the possibilities of digital technologies in advancing the work of PMOs and shaping the future of parliamentary democracy.

“We need to reaffirm our commitment to fostering a more transparent, accountable, and inclusive governance landscape for the benefit of all. We need to embark on the journey of reimagination and chart a course towards a brighter future for parliamentary monitoring and good governance in East Africa and beyond,” he said.

Ms Winnie Kizza, the former Leader of Opposition, observed that access to information in Uganda’s Parliament is not only a myth but also Parliament releases half-baked information to the citizens.

“Parliament releases information it feels the public needs to know and not what must be released. It explains why there is an ongoing #ParliamentExhibition online that has revealed a lot of impunity. There is nothing tangible we see from what the Members of Parliament commit themselves to do and this demoralises those who would have worked hard,” Kizza said.

The purpose of the conference was to collectively re-imagine the possibilities and futures of parliament monitoring organisations in light of the rapidly changing digital technology landscape. It was also aimed at sharing experiences on the effectiveness of the open parliament index in shaping parliamentary democracy on the continent.